Detecting Invasive Species in the Field: Portable eDNA Screening Tool

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Detailed Description

The USGS field tested the use of a portable hand-held kit for the detection of the environmental DNA (eDNA) of Asian carps (bighead carp and silver carp) in water samples as part of on-going invasive species detection research. The goals of the USGS-led research are to develop a method and kit that can be used on-site to detect Asian carp eDNA within one hour. Developing portable, rapid and reliable methods and kits such as the one evaluated here will improve the detection of invasive species and pathogens and will improve the ability of resource managers to make timely decisions to prevent, contain, and control invasive species and pathogens. Future efforts will continue the evaluation of the method and kit under field conditions, including fish shipments that might contain invasive carps, and developing procedures and information needed to allow conservation officers and law enforcement agencies to use the kit to prevent illegal transport of Asian carps and other species. Funding for this research was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
 

Details

Image Dimensions: 1024 x 768

Date Taken:

Length: 00:04:21

Location Taken: La Crosee, WI, US

Video Credits

Partners - Lucigen Corporation; LGC Douglas Scientific; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Ohio Department of Natural Resources; Illinois Department of Natural Resources; Michigan Department of Natural Resources; US Fish and Wildlife Service

Transcript

Welcome to an episode of Midwest Science, brought to you by the U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center. 

I’m Randy Hines.

Natural resource managers and the public are dealing with invasive species including animals, plants and pathogens that require new technologies and tools to detect these invaders before they become ecological and economic problems.  The U.S. Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center collaborated with industry and partners to address this high priority problem. Together, we evaluated the use of a portable device that can help managers detect invasive species rapidly in the field.

Let’s hear from one scientist, Chris Merkes, who is working on the development of a rapid environmental DNA analysis technique and device that can detect the presence of Bighead Carp or Silver Carp, two of the four species of Asian carps that have invaded the U.S.

We have been field testing a portable kit for detecting environmental DNA or eDNA in water samples. This has been in collaboration with two private companies Lucigen Corporation from Middleton, Wisconsin and LGC Douglas Scientific from Alexandria, Minnesota. The goal of our project was to develop a method that can be used on-site to detect Asian carps in under one hour.

Using the hand-held kit significantly reduces the time between sample collection and results compared to typical laboratory-based analysis which generally require several days to obtain results, primarily because of the time required to transport samples from the collection site to the laboratory.

In 2015, expert and novice staff participated in a study to validate whether the field method could accurately and rapidly detect Asian carp eDNA in water samples taken from fish transport tanks containing about 10,000 native minnows and 0, 1, or 10 invasive silver carp. 
Developed in the laboratory, the process was simplified so that experience in genetics or molecular techniques are not needed to detect Asian carp DNA in environmental samples.

State game wardens and scientists used the kit and method to evaluate water samples. Both expert and novice users successfully took less than an hour to collect, process and detect the DNA of silver carp in water samples taken from the carp-containing tanks. 

To demonstrate the method and device have potential for citizen science applications, elementary and high school students whose parents are USGS employees used the field method and portable device to accurately and rapidly detect Asian carp eDNA in water.

Developing portable, rapid and reliable methods and kits such as the one evaluated here will improve the detection of invasive species and pathogens and will improve the ability of resource managers to make timely decisions to prevent, contain, and control invasive species and pathogens. 

Future efforts will continue the evaluation of the method and kit under field conditions, including fish shipments that might contain invasive carps, and developing procedures and information needed to allow conservation officers and law enforcement agencies to use the kit to prevent transport of Asian carps and other species.    

Partners are interested in future applications for additional invasive species including sea lamprey, zebra mussels, grass carp, black carp, round goby, and pathogens such as the chytrid fungi, a group of pathogens impacting salamanders and other amphibians.